Had it not been for this article in the Guardian I don’t know whether we would have bothered to complete a questionnaire from the Co-op despite receiving a letter about it this week. We are longstanding members of the Co-op and of the Co-op Party. Our local store is fairly small so we don’t do all our shopping there, but we like the ethical stance and we use the group for a range of other services as well. Yes we were concerned at the media coverage of the problems at the Co-op Bank but those problems clearly weren’t as serious as for many other banks and we are satisfied that action is being taken to address the problems and to improve the governance – without moving away from the ethical stance which has kept us with them. The reason for not necessarily prioritising a questionnaire is that we are generally happy for the Co-op Group to continue – and for the Co-op Party to continue as part of the wider movement and therefore might not have prioritised the time to fill in the questionnaire.
According to the Guardian, Euan Sutherland (Chief Executive of the Co-op Group) says “the Co-operative has lost touch with its customers and members and with the communities in which it operates – we haven’t been listening.” Fair enough, I agree there is a problem – but with this type of survey, the way that you ask the question has a significant bearing on the response.
The general public don’t have a high opinion of politics or of political parties. So if you ask “To what extent do you think it is appropriate or inappropriate for big businesses to donate money to political parties?” and whether politics is more or less important than local community, I think we can guess what most people would answer.
The perception is that people involved in politics are mostly in it for themselves and/or spend far too much time listening to wealthy donors and that building a brighter future is all but impossible. We can speculate as to the events which have brought us to this sorry state of affairs, but for me it is more important to think about how we change it. The last thing we need to do to renew faith in politics is for anyone with principles to withdraw. Politics isn’t a spectator sport – despite that being how it is usually depicted on TV. Whether our rugby or football team wins or loses may determine whether we are happy or sad, but who wins in politics makes a real difference to people’s lives. Often it makes the most difference to those who pay it little heed – those who are struggling to provide for their families and for whom the minimum wage, tax credits and affordable childcare made a big difference.
I am proud to be a member of the Co-op Party and what it stands for – that people will achieve more by working together than they can by working alone. The manifesto at the last General Election made a lot of sense in terms of the long term solutions needed to improve our economy and restore faith in public services. It is undoubtedly a positive influence on its sister party, the Labour Party which has sometimes been rather too keen on imposing statist solutions rather than co-operative or mutual solutions (i.e. doing things to people instead of involving the people affected in designing the solution for themselves). Ed Miliband himself highlighted the importance of co-operative values before he was elected Leader of the Labour Party and last week wrote about people-centred public services.
There is a deeper contribution made by the Co-operative Party – which is to provide a link between the broader co-operative movement and politics. So no I don’t particularly want “big business” to be involved in politics – but I do want to see far more involvement from membership organisations, whether that is in terms of direct support for political candidates or more generally engaging in a debate about how improve our local communities, Wales or the United Kingdom. Could the Co-op movement engage more effectively with its members and supporters and help get them more involved in community initiatives? Yes undoubtedly and politics should be seen as part of that. The Co-operative Party itself needs to change and to get far more people involved – with fewer committees and more opportunity for real engagement. That is a huge but important task which the new General Secretary, Karin Christiansen, has already started working on. I hope the wider Co-operative movement will support her in this, rather than pulling the rug from beneath her.
Thirty years ago I read Nelson Mandela’s court statement. It was a political education and an inspiration in the form of a booklet from the Wales Anti-Apartheid Movement – something I was proud to be a part of. Of course it is now available online (see here for the full text).
The 70th Birthday Party organised by the ANC and the Anti-Apartheid Movement to bring world attention to his continued incarceration was a stroke of genius. The campaign mug is still in regular use:
Watching his release from prison as I sat in my college room brought me to tears – embarrassing when there was a knock on the door from a friend. The Specials song – a favourite at college bops was changed from “Free Nelson Mandela” to “Freed Nelson Mandela”.
But Mandela’s great achievements really were ahead of him at that point. He used his immense personality not to inspire revenge against his oppressors but to bring people together in reconciliation, united against racism to build a new society. “I am not a saint” he said, “unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”
Great tributes today from all sorts of people, but I particularly enjoyed Tony Blair and Tom Butler this morning – probably my favourite Thought for the Day!
Updated 19 November 2013 to use Roger Scully’s data on second preferences
Roger Scully has been writing an interesting series of blogs on how we might improve the electoral system in Wales.
In his most recent article, he looks at the potential for using the Single Transferable Vote system.
I have long supported the STV system as the most effective means of securing proportional representation. It delivers a fair result without the “two tier” system of constituency members plus “top up” members. The main argument against STV is that large multi-member constituencies would reduce the link between voters and their elected member. The danger is that we would end up with lots of “regional members” whereas people feel a closer connection with their constituency members.
My preferred solution for an improved electoral system for Wales would be two-seat STV, which would ensure the Assembly was representative while maintaining a close link between members and their constituents. It would make sense to require all parties to field one man and a woman in each seat where they were standing two candidates, thereby ensuring a much better gender balance in the Assembly (and removing the need for all-women shortlists, the only mechanism any party has used to date which has had any impact on improving gender balance).
The results under such a system would be fairly similar to Roger’s projection for four-member STV:
|Two seat STV||Four Seat STV|
|Labour||42 – 43||40|
|Plaid Cymru||8 – 9||15|
There are some seats where third and fourth preferences might make a difference and of course there could be more minor parties contesting these elections, whereas most very small parties chose instead to seek regional seats. Roger has provided data for Green and UKIP transfers – perhaps unsurprisingly UKIP favour the Conservatives while Greens favour Labour. Labour voters meanwhile favour Plaid Cymru. There is no data on Socialist Labour or BNP: they secured just 2.4% each across Wales, but there may be enough of them to affect the outcome in some seats. Rhondda is the closest result: Labour win the first seat comfortably, but based on constituency votes they would win the second seat by just 27 votes. In a result that close, the third preferences of Conservative voters could determine the outcome. On regional votes, Plaid are ahead by 566 but that is without transferring the votes from Socialist Labour (746) and BNP (476) and other minor parties (483) while again third preferences may also have an impact.
I agree with Roger that STV ties the outcome to popular wishes – not just in terms of a voter’s first preference but also their subsequent preferences. Candidates and parties picking up second preferences will do better than those candidates and parties inspiring people to vote anybody but them. This system also has the advantage of eliminating safe seats: although there are twelve constituencies where Labour would have taken both seats, in 2007 there were no seats where this was guaranteed and only three where it was a possibility of which only one was likely. In 2007 the Conservatives and Plaid Cymru had a chance of picking up a second seat in Monmouth and Dwyfor-Meirionydd respectively.
Compared to four-seat STV, it is clear that this system favours the larger parties (note that the totals for Labour and Conservative are marginally higher whereas Plaid Cymru are lower). But personally I think this is better than the current system where the vast majority of seats are distributed on first past the post and the regional seats are too large to have a close connection with the electorate.
It is worth looking at the results in 2007 as well – an election where Labour was still largest party but fared comparatively badly. Under this system I project that Labour would have secured 35 of the 80 seats. This is a similar result to the existing system (Labour secured 26 out of 60 seats). It would be wrong to use the second preference data from 2011 – for example some of the Labour voters who were sympathetic to Plaid Cymru in 2011 voted for Plaid Cymru in 2007 so you cannot assume the proportions of second preferences would have been the same.
In addition to the difficulties in predicting what happens to transfers, of course this system would have an impact on where parties campaign – with no “safe” seats and a need to secure second preferences as well as first preferences. Their success in campaigning would determine the actual outcome.
The following statement has been issued by four of the five candidates contesting the Police & Crime Commissioner election in November 2012
We have followed the complaint made by a member of the public in North Wales about where Winston Roddick QC was actually living at the time of last year’s election and read the detailed report published last week by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) with growing unease. The complainant (Mr Pollard) voted for Mr Roddick and felt that he had been duped when he discovered that Mr Roddick did not live in North Wales at the time of the election. Unlike Parliamentary and Welsh Assembly Elections, electoral law requires that candidates for Police & Crime Commissioner are registered to vote in the area where they are seeking election – i.e. that they live there.
Mr Roddick has repeatedly failed to be completely open and transparent about why he felt able to stand in last year’s election. He has talked a lot about his undoubted affinity with Caernarfon, which may explain his motivation, but not his eligibility. Unfortunately this lack of clarity continues with the decision of the IPCC to redact all of the addresses in their report. All of this information is already in the public domain and was obtained from public sources by Mr Pollard or was published by Mr Roddick himself in the course of his election campaign.
We therefore urge the IPCC to publish their report unredacted in full so that the public can begin to make sense of Mr Roddick’s claims about his various addresses, rather than put a redacted report into the public domain which gives the distinct impression that there is something to hide.
The IPCC investigation has confirmed that:
- Mr Roddick’s family home since 1986 is in Cyncoed, Cardiff. Up until 5 October 2012 he was registered to vote at this address. Between 2002 and 2009 he was also registered to vote at an address in London.
- Mr Roddick added himself to the electoral register at Constantine Road, Caernarfon on 5 October 2012 solely in order to qualify to stand as a candidate in the election for Police & Crime Commissioner, having been advised earlier that same day that it was necessary to be registered in North Wales by the 8th October in order to stand.
- The Constantine Road address is where his parents lived and is now the home of his brother and his brother’s wife. Mr Roddick and his wife have stayed there regularly over the years.
- Although Mr Roddick claimed that he had “just moved up” from Cyncoed to Caernarfon, the electoral registration (and claim of having moved) applied to him and not to his wife. Mr Roddick described himself at the time as “in transition”, with permanent homes in Cardiff and London but planning to buy a property in North Wales.
Electoral law allows for the possibility that someone is permanently resident and therefore registered to vote in more than one location. But Section 5 of the Representation of the People Act 1983 explicitly provides that “where at a particular time a person is staying at any place otherwise than on a permanent basis [italics added], he may in all the circumstances be taken to be at that time
(a) resident there if he has no home elsewhere, or
(b) not resident there if he does have a home elsewhere [italics added].”
In early October 2012 it is clear from the IPCC investigation that Mr Roddick was not permanently resident at Constantine Road. He did not intend to live at Constantine Road long term, and continued to have not one but two permanent homes elsewhere.
It is therefore also clear that Mr Roddick was not entitled to be registered to vote at that address on the date nominations closed, and therefore not eligible to stand for election as Police & Crime Commissioner for North Wales.
The IPCC has made a significant error in failing to uphold the complaint, and should instead immediately apologise to Mr Pollard and refer their file on Mr Roddick to the Crown Prosecution Service to consider whether a prosecution is in the public interest.
The substantive complaint (the issue which Mr Pollard tried several times to contact Mr Roddick about in Caernarfon) appears also not to have been investigated and the IPCC therefore also need to look into this failure as a matter of urgency.
Mr Roddick has been given numerous opportunities to clear these matters up. Notably in giving evidence to the Welsh Affairs Select Committee in July 2013, he was asked where he lived and he said he had “homes in various parts of the country because I have practised in various parts of the country, but my home is, was, always will be Caernarfon”.
From the evidence presented by the IPCC, this is clearly a misleading statement. While misleading Parliament is not a criminal offence, it hardly amounts to a tour de force in openness and transparency.
A more accurate summary would be the one that appeared (presumably with his consent) in the S4C 2010 Annual Report: “Winston was born in Caernarfon and although he and his wife have lived in Cardiff for many years, Caernarfon is still very close to his heart”.
In his conversations with electoral services officers in Gwynedd and Flintshire and officers of the Electoral Commission, Mr Roddick made clear that he still had a permanent home in Cardiff. These individuals should all have been aware that if Mr Roddick had a permanent home elsewhere, identifying a temporary home in North Wales was not sufficient for him to be allowed to stand in the election. They were therefore in a position to raise concerns with the Police Area Returning Officer (PARO) at the time of the election – in a way that others were not.
Clearer guidance on the difference between a permanent home and somewhere that a person happens to be staying should be published by the Electoral Commission, and staff urged to raise concerns at the time, so that PCC elections can be run properly without ineligible candidates.
Mr Roddick has sought to portray the complaint lodged against him as an “unwanted distraction”. As the other four candidates in the election, we represent the whole of the political spectrum. We feel that it is important to make this joint statement in the interests of upholding standards in public life.
Winston Roddick CB QC should apologise unreservedly for failing to deal properly with Mr Pollard’s complaint regarding the police. He should now consider whether by continuing in office he is serving the interests of the people of North Wales, of North Wales Police, of victims of crime – or just himself.
The five candidates and Jason Mohammad – Radio Wales Phone-in November 2012
With Radio 4 describing the Royal Mail privatisation as reminiscent of Thatcherism, I thought I would check what each party said in their 2010 manifestos. You may recognise a recurring theme here: I think that parties should stand by their commitments to the electorate. As I previously pointed out here, when Stanley Baldwin as Conservative Leader and Prime Minister concluded that the Government’s policy needed to change from what they had offered at the election the previous year, he called another election.
When Welsh Labour entered a coalition with Plaid Cymru in 2007, it was based on comparing the two parties’ manifestos, implementing the things they agreed on and compromising on other issues. Not everyone was happy with the results (it was a bit harsh on the badgers for example) but at least it had a clear basis. In 2010 the Liberal Democrats negotiated on the basis of ditching their own manifesto and doing stuff the Tories wanted to do – regardless of whether or not they had mentioned it in their own manifesto. The most glaring example is this quote from the Lib Dem manifesto:
If spending is cut too soon, it would undermine the much-needed recovery and cost jobs. We will base the timing of cuts on an objective assessment of economic conditions, not political dogma. Our working assumption is that the economy will be in a stable enough condition to bear cuts from the beginning of 2011–12.
As an experiment, doing the precise opposite of this proved a point – the growing economy which they inherited ceased to grow and the cuts were therefore self defeating, with revenues dropping by a similar amount to the cuts in spend and the deficit remaining at a similar level.
So what about Royal Mail privatisation? Much to my surprise, although the Conservatives didn’t say anything about privatising the Royal Mail, the Liberal Democrats did. They said they would:
Give both Royal Mail and post offices a long-term future, by separating Post Office Ltd from the Royal Mail and retaining Post Office Ltd in full public ownership. 49 per cent of Royal Mail will be sold to create funds for investment. The ownership of the other 51 percent will be divided between an employee trust and the government.
So there is a partial mandate for what is happening – but not for the detail. The government stake may end up being as little as 30% while 10% of the shares will be allocated to eligible employees. So between them, employees and the Government will hold a minority stake not a majority stake. And there is a very significant difference between an “employee trust” and employees holding shares – it is about collective bargaining power. Middle-men will make lots of money from commission on the shares which are traded but the sale is bad news for the public and for employees.
There is no mandate for what the Government is doing as well as it being a bad idea in its own right.
Royal Mail is a profitable business. As a privatised company, it will be a dominant player in the market. In these circumstances, there needs to be a tight regulatory framework. Far better, as the CWU have argued, to establish Royal Mail as a ‘not for dividend company’ with profits reinvested back into services and the workforce, operating for the public good, balancing its social obligations with commercial opportunities. If the primary motive for privatising is to enable it to raise capital, such a model would be much more effective.
The Labour 2010 manifesto is worth re-reading:
The Post Office has an invaluable role to play in our communities and in serving local businesses. To promote trusted and accessible banking, we will transform the Post Office into a People’s Bank offering a full range of competitive, affordable products. This will help sustain the network and boost competition in banking. The universal postal service delivered by the Royal Mail connects and binds us together as a country. We are firmly committed to the 28 million homes and businesses across the country receiving mail six days a week, with the promise that one price goes everywhere. The Royal Mail and its staff are taking welcome and needed steps to modernise work practices. For the future, continuing modernisation and investment will be needed by the Royal Mail in the public sector.
A sensible approach which remains sensible today.
It has been really interesting to hear the howls of protest following Ed Miliband’s announcement that an incoming Labour Government will freeze energy prices. Which? estimates that flaws in the energy market had already forced consumers to pay £3.9bn over the odds since 2010. The estimated cost of the price freeze is £4.3bn – so comparable to the amount the energy companies have unfairly extracted from consumers over the lifetime of this Parliament.
The energy companies claim that they need to raise prices in order to fund investment, but the fact is that they have failed to invest. Instead they have chosen to pay bumper dividends to shareholders. Profits for the “big six” which provide energy to 98 per cent of homes have risen sharply:
2009 £2.15 billion
2010 £2.22 billion
2011 £3.87 billion
2012 £3.74 billion
I am not the only one to find it amusing that the person defending these bumper profits (or to put the other side of the coin, failure to invest the money we have handed over in energy bills in new low carbon generation) is ex Tory MP Angela Knight – previously chief apologist for the banking industry.
The last Tory Government also allowed privatised monopolies to fleece us – something addressed by Labour in 1997 with a tax on excess profits. The advantage of Ed Miliband’s approach is it is a very visible example of Government righting the imbalance in power between ordinary people and the privileged few – whereas a tax would be seen as the Government looking after itself. Regulating monopolies (or market domination by a few players) isn’t revolutionary socialism – it is something that the United States of America does. The UK water and rail regulators decide how much prices can increase – giving the energy regulator the power to do the same isn’t going to end capitalism as we know it. In fact it will help many businesses, which have also felt the squeeze from increased energy prices.
Of course the prices freeze doesn’t actually address the long term requirement for investment in new and lower carbon energy – it just deals with the profiteering. On Ynys Môn there is overwhelming support for a new nuclear power station – and without new nuclear we aren’t going to be in a position to reduce our reliance on coal and gas – both of which are high carbon. The private sector is ready to invest, but the UK Government needs to agree the “strike price” – how much Horizon (now owned by Hitachi) will be paid for each megawatt of electricity.
And there’s the rub – because for all the talk about this being a “market” and the “private sector”, companies are demanding government guarantees as a precondition for investment. That’s ok with me – but we need to be very clear about who is taking which risks and what is a fair profit margin. There needs to be transparency and that means splitting energy generation from supply. Ed Miliband and Caroline Flint get that, being clear that the purpose of the freeze is to buy time for this to happen, with an Energy Security Board with responsibility for identifying our energy needs and providing a clear framework to deliver this and a Green Investment Bank with borrowing powers to support investment. As Which? have argued, we also need to move to a single unit price, which would make it easy for us all to understand what we are being charged and what other options are available. Not only would this make things much simpler, it maximises the incentive to each of us to save energy.
Of course we are also hearing suggestions that the companies will hike their prices now in order to get round the cap. David Cameron and Nick Clegg need to be very careful here. If they allow the energy companies to profiteer even more than they have been already, the result of the General Election is a foregone conclusion. If they feel unable to act to protect the public, then they should make way for a Government which is.
You can read the full text of Ed and Caroline’s speeches and Ed’s letter to the energy companies here.
Below is a link to Ed Miliband’s speech in last week’s debate. You can also read the text of the Labour amendment here. I say “Labour amendment” because that is how it was phrased by the media. But actually the amendment was proposed by the Leaders of the SNP and Plaid Cymru as well as Labour. I was pleased to see that the put the effort into ensuring cross-party co-operation.
Had David Cameron been willing to listen and accept this amendment, he wouldn’t have been humiliated and the Commons would have agreed a clear, principled position. Cameron’s problem is that he thinks “cross-party consensus” means “everyone agreeing with me”. If you genuinely want a consensus, you have to listen to the other side too.
As is made clear in today’s BBC poll, three quarters of the public agree that MPs were right to stop military action. David Cameron had already had to accept that there wasn’t support in Parliament for authorising military action before hearing from UN inspectors (the reason he had recalled Parliament). It would have been better to agree a positive statement with the majority of MPs instead of trying to get his own way at the cost of losing completely.
Cliciwch yma i ddarllen y blog yma yn Gymraeg.
Every year Cymdeithas Cledwyn holds a meeting at the Eisteddfod. It is an opportunity for Welsh-speaking Welsh Labour members to get together for a chat, named in honour of Cledwyn Hughes, former MP for Anglesey and a tireless campaigner for the Welsh language.
Last year we focused on the elections for Police and Crime Commissioners. Last Thursday was a chance to hear from David Elystan Morgan – Elystan to his friends and Baron Elystan-Morgan officially. I met Elystan when I was Chief Executive of North Wales Police Authority and on behalf of the Police Authorities of Wales, I drafted an amendment to the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill which would have transferred responsibility for the checks and balances by locally elected representatives in Wales to be determined by the National Assembly of Wales. You can read the debate here.
Last week’s meeting was chaired again by Eluned Morgan. Eluned began by telling us she had taken Elystan everywhere with her on holiday, including to bed, before explaining that she was talking about his book, which is available here. I’ve ordered a copy and look forward to reading it . You can find a review of the book here.
Thanks to Richard Wyn Jones for questioning Elystan about his history and his views on contemporary issues. Richard asked Elystan about his reasons for leaving Plaid Cymru and joining the Labour Party in 1965. Elystan explained that he had not changed his mind about self-government for Wales or the importance of supporting the Welsh language – but recognised that he had a better chance of achieving these objectives through the Labour Party. He suffered a blow in 1979 when he failed to be elected to represent Anglesey (ironically at a similar age to my own failed bid!) but went on to a second career as a member of the House of Lords and as a judge.
Of course Elystan was proved right: it was the Labour Party that secured devolution for Wales and official recognition of the the Welsh language. Sometimes Plaid Cymru have focused on identifying the Labour Party as the enemy – so it was interesting to see in the by-election last month their candidate focus instead on things Plaid Cymru has achieved by working with Labour. Indeed, on the issue affecting the island where there is deep disagreement between Labour and Plaid Cymru (the future of nuclear power), Rhun agreed with us. He also recognised that independence does not make sense to Wales at the moment although this remains his long term goal. There were a few efforts to claim that the Labour Party is anti-Welsh and say different things to voters in both English and Welsh – something very foolish which I hope they will not try again.
Some people struggle with Welsh names. The solution to this is to support them. The day after Rhun complained that a member of the Labour party couldn’t say his name, I met a woman in the centre of Holyhead who spoke Welsh but couldn’t pronounce Taliesin. I did not blame or condemn her but helped and encouraged her. According to a poll last year, 81% of Labour voters are proud of the Welsh language – more than average voters. I’m proud of my Welsh name and the Welsh names we chose for our children. Aneurin and Taliesin wrote the oldest surviving text in Welsh – the text that is the basis for our claim that Welsh is the oldest living language in Europe.
Of course I hoped to win the election although previous results for Anglesey elections to the Assembly suggested that this was unlikely. But it is more important to me to win the argument. And the most important argument in politics today is between those who want to build the economy where everyone who can work will have the opportunity to do so and those who are so focused on cutting the deficit they didn’t appreciate the damage being done to the economy. Since 2010 deficit reduction has been marginal despite all the cuts because many more people have been put out of work or are working part time.
While the Westminster Coalition parties are not offering any hope, UKIP offers false hope. A large number of people on Anglesey believe that immigration is the problem with the economy. But there was much more evidence about the necessity of emigration: young people leaving the Island to work. It is the history of the Island, and also the history of my family. If everyone working overseas came home at the same time and everyone who works here from abroad returned home, the only certainty is many more people out of work!
Politicians who encourage people to blame their neighbours for lack of work or housing do nothing except raise tensions between communities. What is needed is to create more jobs – for example by building more affordable housing. Plaid Cymru agree with the Labour Party on this. I hope as a result of Rhun’s victory we will hear more from them on this – instead of the less positive aspects of their campaign.